People keep posting this article (http://rockstardinosaurpirateprincess.com/2015/03/02/consent-not-actually-that-complicated/), or a version of it, on social media sites – and saying how brilliant it is. Well, it isn’t. It’s reductive and insulting.
Try telling a rape victim that his or her ordeal was only as bad as being forced to drink an unwanted cup of tea… see my point? “What are you complaining about? He only stripped you naked and held a knife to your throat and then penetrated you repeatedly until you bled. Pah! That’s nothing! My Great Aunt Elsie made me drink a whole pot of Darjeeling the other day without any milk and wouldn’t even let me dunk my Rich Tea biscuit in my cup!”
The first time I saw the article, I found it mildly irritating. Every subsequent airing it’s had has made that irritation slightly more acute. After four months of it, it’s enraged me so much I feel I have to answer it and explain to any of its proponents who may be reading this just why it’s a heap of unmitigated codswallop.
OK, let me break it down for you, bit by bit. Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate Princess’s words are in italics, with my comments in Roman after them.
You say “hey, would you like a cup of tea?” and they go “omg fuck yes, I would fucking LOVE a cup of tea! Thank you!” then you know they want a cup of tea.
Actually, no. I have a friend who makes Mrs Doyle from Father Ted look inhospitable in the way she offers food and drink to visitors. Any refusal of such wounds her deeply, thus obliging the potential recipient to accept in a wholly overblown and exaggerated manner. If tea is proffered, people who know her automatically respond in the way Rockstar DPP suggests… and then pour the unwanted beverage into the nearest plant pot. Because we’re talking about tea here. And tea, in the global scheme of things, is pretty unimportant (and I say that as an Englishwoman and confirmed tanninphomaniac); sex, on the other hand, is not.
If you say “hey, would you like a cup of tea?” and they um and ahh and say, “I’m not really sure…” then you can make them a cup of tea or not, but be aware that they might not drink it, and if they don’t drink it then – this is the important bit – don’t make them drink it. You can’t blame them for you going to the effort of making the tea on the off-chance they wanted it; you just have to deal with them not drinking it. Just because you made it doesn’t mean you are entitled to watch them drink it.
Again, the analogy is wanting. If I um and ahh and say “I’m not really sure,” but you make me a cup of tea anyway, I’ll drink it – because you’ve gone to the trouble of making it for me and I don’t want you to think me unappreciative. Because we’re still talking about tea here, and drinking a cuppa that I don’t really fancy is neither here nor there. If, on the other hand, you ask me to have sex with you and I’m not really into it, well, I’d make my interest or lack thereof clear to you – none of this “not really sure” malarkey. I’m not saying people aren’t allowed to change their mind about having sex (or drinking tea), but if they’re going to be all dithery and wishy-washy about whether they’re into the idea or not, they can hardly blame the other person for trying to convince them.
If they say “No thank you” then don’t make them tea. At all. Don’t make them tea, don’t make them drink tea, don’t get annoyed at them for not wanting tea. They just don’t want tea, ok?
Actually, do make me a cup of tea. I might have said “no thanks” because I was distracted and didn’t actually take in the fact that you were offering me a cup of that revivifying liquid; or maybe I wasn’t thirsty when I said “no”, but by the time the kettle has boiled and the tea’s had time to mash (I’m from Yorkshire and that’s what tea does up there – you may think it brews or steeps or something), I may want a cup of tea more than anything else. Make me one. Always make me one. As I said, I’ll probably drink it even if I don’t want it. If however, you ask me to have sex and I say “no”, then that does actually mean “no”. Because it’s not tea. It’s sex and it’s very, very different.
They might say “Yes please, that’s kind of you” and then when the tea arrives they actually don’t want the tea at all. Sure, that’s kind of annoying as you’ve gone to the effort of making the tea, but they remain under no obligation to drink the tea. They did want tea, now they don’t. Sometimes people change their mind in the time it takes to boil that kettle, brew the tea and add the milk. And it’s ok for people to change their mind, and you are still not entitled to watch them drink it even though you went to the trouble of making it.
I’ve covered this. Someone offers me tea; I say “yes”; I don’t fancy it by the time it arrives; I drink it anyway. Someone offers me sex; I say “yes”; I don’t fancy it by the time it arrives; I might have a bit of explaining to do, but it’s not going to happen. Because drinking unwanted tea is a minor inconvenience, whereas enduring unwanted sex is a violation.
If they are unconscious, don’t make them tea. Unconscious people don’t want tea and can’t answer the question “do you want tea” because they are unconscious.
Oh, do, please please make me a cup of tea. I might just regain consciousness, and I promise you, the thing that would please me more than anything else in those circumstances would be to find a nice steaming hot cup of tea awaiting me. This is not to say I’d necessarily be so appreciative of finding someone attempting to fuck my comatose form; but tea, oh yeah, so much yeah.
Ok, maybe they were conscious when you asked them if they wanted tea, and they said yes, but in the time it took you to boil that kettle, brew the tea and add the milk they are now unconscious. You should just put the tea down, make sure the unconscious person is safe, and – this is the important bit – don’t make them drink the tea. They said yes then, sure, but unconscious people don’t want tea.
Yes, they do – well, they do if they’re me. Wake me up and tell me there’s tea. Or even water. Because if I’ve passed out because I’m drunk, then I’m going to need to consume something non-alcoholic to prevent dehydration and avoid the hangover-from-hell next morning. If I said I wanted tea before unconsciousness struck, it is your duty to at least try and make me drink it. It’s not your duty to try and shag me. Tea… sex… no correlation.
If someone said yes to tea, started drinking it, and then passed out before they’d finished it, don’t keep on pouring it down their throat. Take the tea away and make sure they are safe. Because unconscious people don’t want tea. Trust me on this.
I cannot trust you on this, because it’s not true. As I’ve just said, they do if they’re me. Wake me up and point out that I haven’t finished my tea. Or if it’s cold and horrible, make me a fresh cup. If I pass out halfway through sex, that’s another matter (either I was so drunk that no amount of tea was going to save me from that hellish hangover I just referred to, or you were spectacularly uninspiring and probably better suited to making tea than to shagging anyway).
If someone said “yes” to tea around your house last saturday [sic], that doesn’t mean that they want you to make them tea all the time. They don’t want you to come around unexpectedly to their place and make them tea and force them to drink it going “BUT YOU WANTED TEA LAST WEEK”, or to wake up to find you pouring tea down their throat going “BUT YOU WANTED TEA LAST NIGHT”.
Well, no; I do semi-agree with Rockstar DPP here – there’s nothing I hate more than unwanted and uninvited visitors; but if they are going to turn up unexpectedly, the least they can do is make themselves useful and keep me supplied with tea. Indeed, if they prove themselves to be willing to brew up (I’ve lived in the south and also use non-Yorkshire terms) at the drop of a hat, they might find that they pass from being unwelcome guests to ones I’m always happy to see. Someone coming round and expecting to get laid is going to get short shrift from me… but, y’know… can’t get enough of that lovely tannin-laced beverage.
Do you think this is a stupid analogy? Yes, you all know this already – of course you wouldn’t force feed someone tea because they said yes to a cup last week. Of COURSE you wouldn’t pour tea down the throat of an unconscious person because they said yes to tea 5 minutes ago when they were conscious.
Yes, Rockstar DPP, I do think it’s a stupid analogy; an immensely stupid analogy. If I said I wanted tea last week, there’s a very high probability that I’ll want tea this week; of COURSE you wouldn’t pour tea down my throat if I were unconscious, but I’d hope you’d have both the decency and the common sense to wake me up and give me the chance of pouring it down my own throat (this is not an allusion to masturbation). The same logic does not apply to sex. I may have wanted sex last week and be totally opposed to the idea this week; and, if you’d ever had the (ahem) pleasure of interacting with me when I’ve just woken up (before I’ve had sufficient tea to render me human), you’d know that having your dick inside me when I became compos mentis would not be a good idea.
But if you can understand how completely ludicrous it is to force people to have tea when they don’t want tea, and you are able to understand when people don’t want tea, then how hard is it to understand when it comes to sex? Whether it’s tea or sex, Consent Is Everything.
And this is exactly why this whole analogy is counter-productive and insidious. Forcing people to have tea when they don’t want tea is – at worst – a bit annoying. Whether you are able to understand when people don’t want tea or have no idea about it makes very little difference in the long run. You make people tea; you insist they drink it; the tea-lovers (like me) will drink it anyway and not mind your insistence; the coffee-drinkers will let it go cold or empty it down the sink or out of the window when you’re not looking. It really isn’t a big deal at all. Forcing people to have sex when they don’t want sex is a huge deal. And to compare the two is conveying the message that having one’s body violated is no worse than having to gulp down a cup of tea. No. It’s really not. One’s forgettable in a matter of minutes; the other is memorable for an entire lifetime.